Saturday 5 September 2015

We've moved!

You can now find all blog posts and information about the book "In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett" at  We hope to see you there!

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Songs and Stories and a Million Other Things

Memories are important.

Like stories and music and just about everything else, they’re important because of the emotional attachment we apply to them. Hey, what’s your favourite song? Have you and your husband or your girlfriend ever heard a tune on the radio and said: “Hey! That’s our song!” before being swept up in a torrent of fond memories and musings and best-forgotten dance moves? Does knowing it’s someone else favourite song or that it ‘belongs’ to a million other couples make it any less unique or special to you?


Because the memories conjured by the melodies and the lyrics are yours and yours alone, and that’s what separates it from every other song out there.

Terry Pratchett knew that Death was coming for him. He knew that he was in the grip of Alzheimer’s and he tackled it with the strength, nobility and humour that he lived the rest of his life by. It was just another thing. He didn’t let it define him.

I wanted to contribute to this anthology because Sir Terry is my favourite writer. I mean, this is the man who created all my favourite characters this side of Batman!

I never knew Terry but — like songs — I knew his characters in a way that no-one else could because I saw parts of myself in them (and not always the good bits). Commander Vimes, Rincewind, Granny Weatherwax, William de Worde… They may all exist in a fantasy land in some distant corner of the multiverse, but anyone who’s ever read the stories in which these characters (and hundreds more) appear will have glimpsed some facet of themselves within them, even though they were born from a single imagination.

Terry Pratchett showed us the real world through a fantastical prism that made the good parts beautiful and the ugly parts seem easy to fix, more often than not making us laugh while doing so. These are just a couple of his greatest strengths as a writer, and as a human.

My gran suffers from dementia. For more than a decade I’ve watched her mind decline and slip and slide. It’s not an easy thing to witness, because in this case, it has come to define her. And yet, I’ll always remember the woman she was before this cruel disease gripped her. I’ll remember her sweeping onto a bus every Sunday morning on her way to church and chatting to people that would ignore her any other day of the week (smiling afterwards with an astute observation that “There’s a big difference between Christianity and Churchianity”, a caveat which I think Sir Terry would raise a wry smile to). I’ll remember her stories about growing up in a post-war Glasgow that I’ll never get to know. I’ll remember how she taught me not to cry whenever I’d fall and scrape my knees simply by forcing myself to think about something else. But most of all I’ll remember her baking, and how she’d accidentally-on-purpose slice too many apples for her apple tart and slip the surplus to me, dusted with sugar, so it wouldn’t go to waste. (To this day I’ve kept my promise not to tell my mum about that. I hope I can trust you with this information.)

These days I blush when she has one of her less lucid moments, looks at me and says: “You’re a fine young man. If I was your age I’d fancy you”. Cheers Gran. Even now, your words and wisdom never fail to provide an ego boost.

The strength of memories also, tragically, hit my family even closer to home earlier this year.

In February, my dad passed away a few weeks after suffering a stroke. He didn’t wake up after it, but he wasn’t in any pain during his last days, and I think he knew he was surrounded by family. I take comfort knowing this, and in the wealth of memories I have of him. I take comfort in knowing that I can listen to his karaoke recordings of Elvis and Billy Fury songs whenever I want (and he sang their songs better than they did). I take comfort in seeing him within the photo frames where he sits grinning at us, and in the many memories of his unflinching enthusiasm every time he bought a Lotto ticket (“We’ll win it next week, wait and see”) and a million other things.

When a friend and mutual Discworld enthusiast told me about this anthology and its theme, I knew I had to write something, for myself if nothing else. I wanted to analyse why we place so much significance in memories and what that importance means in the social media age, where we constantly fret over how mega corporations use our private data yet think nothing of publicly sharing our thoughts and photos — our memories — for the world to see. Are they still important if they’re disposable? Do they carry the same weight when we scroll through a conveyor of similar thoughts and feelings from other people every day?

Well, that depends on you.

And that brings me to a close, to offer humble thanks for being included in a body of work born from the love and respect for a great writer and amazing human being — to The Vividarium, which is for my dad, my gran, and the memory of Sir Terry Pratchett, if I can be so bold to hope that they would’ve liked it.

Thanks for the memories, and the stories that go with them.

Sunday 12 July 2015

And now, for a story

My uncle had Alzheimers.

(Get back here, I'll be quick!)

Waaaay back then it wasn't called Alzheimers or dementia. We brushed it off as him just being silly. He would call up his brother-in-law and talk about past events as if it happened yesterday. I remember once he took a night bus to another state, but due to a comedy of errors he ended up back home. At the bus station, he called my aunt and said, "Wow, this town is totally like home! You should see it! Look, it even has the same coffee shop!" It took him a run-in with a friend to realise where he was, and it became a story we'd laugh over during family reunions.

Then in 2009-2010, my aunt suddenly passed away in her sleep.

My dad headed to Terengganu for the funeral (aunt was my dad's sister). In the church, my dad saw my uncle sitting near the coffin, looking so sad and forlorn. Dad sat next to him, thinking the old chap (he was 70+ then) needed a shoulder and an ear.

Uncle: It's so sad, she's gone, and I didn't have the chance to say goodbye!
Dad: *nodnod*
Uncle: She was always so kind, and gentle, and she treated us all fairly!
Dad: ... (I don't know if we're talking about my sister anymore, but okay)
Uncle: And even though I wasn't her real son, she raised me like her own!
Dad: .........what.

It dawned on my dad that my uncle thought he was attending his adopted mother's funeral (she'd died years ago).

My uncle didn't realise his wife was dead and he was at her funeral.

I don't think he ever did.

His dementia snowballed very quickly into Alzheimers. His kids brought him back to Selangor so they could take care of him, but he was slipping. Once he vanished from the nursing home and ended up 10 kilometers away in town, standing in front of a shop. The shopkeeper called my cousin, and it broke my dad's heart to see his brother-in-law not recognise his own daughter. Over the years his kids still brought him out for Sunday breakfast and family dinners, but he'd sit quietly, probably wondering why these nice people kept taking him out.

The last words he spoke to me were, "You've grown so much since I last saw you!"

I wonder which era was he stuck in; I never found out.

My uncle passed on last year.

The difference between my uncle and Terry Pratchett was that Mr Pratchett knew what was coming. Knowing that his memories will disappear, rushing against time to write one last book because his body will say 'ok that's it' and poof that's all folks, it probably hurt a lot. My uncle didn't know what hit him, and perhaps that was a blessing.

Alzheimers always sounds heart-wrenching - the stories are always about old people forgetting things, and the children are left to watch helplessly as their parents slip backwards into a mental time portal until the tunnel hits the beginning. But ultimately it's always someone else's story, and we are merely sympathetic bystanders. If we didn't experience it we write about a simulated pain, close to the real thing, but not quite the same.

I wasn't very close to my uncle, but my dad lost a brother-figure, and my cousins lost their dad.

I don't think I'll understand their loss.

I hope I never will.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Yesterday's gone (and so are all the other days)

The phrase “I remember it like it was yesterday” becomes somewhat meaningless when you realise that yesterday, like every other day since the beginning of time, is gone forever – and therefore can't be easily referred to for a quick fact-check.
One of the first things they teach you when you become a copper (or so I am told) is to take eyewitness accounts with a generous helping of salt. This goes double for witnesses to an event that was both entirely unexpected and began and ended within an extremely short space of time. This can be largely explained through the concept of schematic thinking – an idea that fascinated me in sixth form psychology, and which I shall now explain to you in what is probably a mangled and misinterpreted manner so heaving with irony, it just might melt my laptop.
A schema is sort of like one of those crossword solvers used by people who miss the point of a crossword. For those of you who don't know about crossword solvers, they're programs and/or websites you can use to solve crossword puzzles for you and, oh dear, I've probably encouraged a few of you to use them. Anyway, the point is this. A crossword solver works by taking what limited information you have – three letters from a six letter word, say – and then using this to almost instantly present you with one or more solutions to save you thinking. A schema will similarly take limited information – perhaps scrappy memories, or an unfamiliar sight or sound – and instantly fill in the gaps to proffer some kind of understanding/solution. It does this, essentially, by making it fit in with existing beliefs or experience. This isn't a conscious process, which is where the trouble comes in.
To go back to the idea of eyewitness reports, let's take the hypothetical crime of a purse snatching in a busy shop. A dastardly fiend snatches a bag from a woman's shoulder and makes good his escape, grabbing his ill-gotten gains and leaving the shop all within the space of less than five seconds. There are ten witnesses. Thanks to schematic thinking, no two eyewitness accounts match exactly. Eight witnesses say the bag was over the woman's right shoulder, because they are right-handed; two witnesses say it was the left shoulder, because they are left-handed. The bag itself was red, but will be reported by some as blue, because the theft took place in a section of the shop selling mostly blue bags. The criminal was clean shaven, but is reported by four witnesses as having noticeable stubble or the beginnings of a beard, because that's how dirty purse-snatchers look, isn't it? The criminal was wearing smart shoes, but six witnesses swear he was wearing black (or dark blue) trainers, because he was running. And so on. I'm obviously just pulling these numbers out of the air, but the principle rings true.
Tempting as it is to explore how and why schemas are at the rotten core of various prejudices (it's currently fashionable amongst racists, for example, to consider certain terrorists representative of all Muslims, while ignoring acts of heroism carried out by Muslims such as those in the recent horrors of France and Tunisia), I don't want to go off on too much of a tangent here. The point is that at a fundamental level, we all have some of our memories and perceptions subtly altered without our permission by a sort of internal editor. An overzealous editor who wants to ensure that everything is understood with no loose ends, in a way that doesn't challenge the audience's expectations. On top of this, our memories can be altered by other people – both intentionally and unintentionally.
If life events act like cookie cutters, leaving clearly defined shapes in our minds, then those shapes are cut from an extremely malleable clay that never hardens. I'll leave the explanation of this to an expert. There's a brilliant Ted Talk by psychologist Elizabeth Loftus that I strongly recommend you watch. It will take less than eighteen minutes of your time, and will open your eyes to just how fragile the accuracy of human memory is.
Wandering back to the idea of memory and the legal system; results from polygraph (so called 'lie detector') tests are not- despite what you may have heard – admissible as evidence in a UK court of law. There are several reasons for this, one of the chief ones being the fact that their margin of error remains fiercely contested to this day. Even ignoring that, and the techniques that can be employed to fool such a test (yes, it can be done), all a polygraph test can be said to prove – at best – is what a person believes to be true. And those pesky schemas can then come into play to interfere.
Let's say that, on a day of remarkable coincidence, three people in three different cities have a virtually identical experience in the middle of the night; one a devout and enthusiastic Christian, one a strong believer in UFOs and alien life, and one an atheist. Each person wakes up in the early hours of the morning, and sees mysterious figures surrounding their bed making strange noises for a minute or more. The mysterious figures then suddenly disappear. The devout Christian will swear they were visited by angels, as this slots in perfectly with the world view that their religious schemas provide. The UFO fanatic will swear that they were visited by aliens, as this slots in perfectly with the world view that their very different, but equally strong, belief provides. The atheist, with no existing schemas that smoothly wrap around the experience, won't immediately know what to make of it; but after research, may well conclude that it was a hypnopompic hallucination.
To put it in a way that even somebody like me can understand, 'hypnopompic' basically refers to a state where asleep and awake melt into one another. You're seeing the real world, but your dream brain is allowing your imagination to drop things into your vision, sometimes with accompanying sound. In essence, a waking dream. I had a hypnopompic hallucination once, and it was bloody terrifying.
I didn't know it was a hypnopompic hallucination at the time. I certainly wouldn't have used those words, as I was probably about seven or eight years old. Poor little me; I woke up (more or less) in the morning, and immediately saw a small creature sitting on the end of my bed staring at me. It was as big as a fair sized TV. It was a cardboard box with eyes and a downturned mouth cut out, with arms ending in gloves and legs ending in shoes. The arms and legs suggested that whatever was inside the box (if anything was indeed in it) was wearing a tight-fitting stripy onesie.
Look, I was seven or eight.
It looked straight at me and said, in an unnaturally slow and deep voice that chilled me to my young bones:
Wide awake club”.
It was scary at the time, okay? I leapt out of bed, straight past the demon, and hurtled into my parents' room. When I returned to my bedroom the thing was gone of course, and I tell you what, I really bloody hope it was a hallucination. I think that may have scarred me for life. I'm never going to forget that, and I remember it in horrifying detail even today.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Monday 29 June 2015

How and Where I Write

How and where I write

Jane Austen wrote by hand on small sheets of paper hiding them if anyone came into the room. Anthony Trollope paid his manservant to call him at 5.30am so he could get in three hours writing before he left home for his day job. Proust wrote in a cork lined room and J G Ballard in a nondescript suburban house. I have a friend who composes her best work in coffee shops, because she doesn’t like the silence at home.
I am lucky in having a study. I type at an old table with a Formica top. On it sits my principal tool, an iMac with a 27” screen. Why so big? Because I can have three A4 equivalent pages displayed at a time, making moving between documents, or parts of the same document easy. I can have my browser open on one side of the screen and the document I am working on on the other. A simple touch of my mouse enables me to swipe sideways to other open documents – one always is Google Earth.
I use Word. It has had its ups and downs but for most writing is better than anything else. I have tailored the screen and the commands to my own preferences. If I am writing dialogue or a radio script I use Celtx, which lays everything out as performers, directors and producers need to see it. I tried but abandoned Scrivener, sold as a productivity package but worse than useless in my view.
My table also has an assortment of pens and pencils in a plastic desk tidy my daughter gave me when she was six, Post-It notes, a note block, a desk lamp, a bowl full of dongles, wireless mikes and general detritus, and a small brass clock that no longer works and I don’t know what to do with. There is a large magnifying glass and a Swiss army knife. The surface of the table is slightly slippery and my mouse pad is kept in place by a 1lb brass weight given to me by a friend’s widow. There are two remote controls, for amplifier and CD player, a phone and a calculator. My printer sits nearby, a high speed Epson that is good at double sided work.
Next to my table is an old Welsh dresser stuffed with an assortment of books, most not used for immediate writing needs except for a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. Part of one shelf houses books with material I have published. Some of the dresser houses research files for various projects, some completed.
On the wall above my computer is a picture of my old college and a pen and ink drawing of a desert landscape with two saguaro cacti. They remind me of the desert Southwest USA, my favourite part of the world.
The window overlooks parked cars with trees and houses in the middle distance. If I am busy I don’t look out. Sometimes I draw the curtains because bright light makes my screen hard to see. On the two foot deep windowsill is a collection of little objects acquired over the years and family photos.
Next to the window is a tall set of shelves housing essential materials (paper, envelopes, ink cartridges and so on), and reference books. The most important are the Shorter Oxford (3rd ed.), the Chicago Manual of Style and the Oxford American Dictionary. I also have several dictionaries of slang and the Economist Style Guide, along with Ben Bova’s brilliant book the Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells. A manual of old seafaring terms is there as well, seldom used. There are atlases, and a lot of maps. My favourite of these is an airline pilot’s map of Western Yemen.
Behind where I sit is a wall lined with books, much science fiction, books about WW2, London, H G Wells and California, together with assorted books I cannot even begin to catalogue. I no longer throw books away, because seven years ago my wife and I moved house 5,000 miles, and abandoned over 1,000 books in the process, saying we would not need them again. We were wrong.
Most of the reference books are downstairs in a place that would be a library if it weren’t our living room. They are downstairs so that if I want to look something up it forces me to get up and walk downstairs, taking minimal exercise, but taking it. Here are Butler’s Lives of the Saints (12 volumes), a complete Oxford English Dictionary, numerous dictionaries of other languages, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, the 6th ed. Shorter Oxford (the dictionary to which I usually turn if the 3rd ed. upstairs doesn’t serve for any reason), Collins English Dictionary (it sometimes has better word definitions than Oxford), a magisterial encyclopaedia of the grape, the Oxford Companion to English literature and Oxford Book of Quotations. There is also a Concise Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Oxford Companion to Music, Kobbe’s Complete Opera Book, Fowler, Gowers and others.
Why do I need all these books? Surely one can look anything up on the internet? The simple answer is, no you cannot. If you want the correct etymology of a word (the plural of “dwarf” springs to mind) you will try in vain. If you need details of the life of an obscure saint, or an obscure English engineer, you may have difficulty on the Internet. Similarly if you want an authoritative discussion of the origins of “Jack and Jill went up the hill” (I did a few days ago) you need the Opies’ marvellous reference work. There is a second answer: I like reference books.
All of this paraphernalia, together with the Internet (accessed via Safari, Opera, Firefox and Chrome depending on my needs) forms an extended memory. I no longer need to remember details, nor to make many notes. The only difficulty is knowing where I looked something up, in case I need to document it. Scrivener can do this but my way is simpler. When I look things up on the internet I bookmark relevant references until I have finished with whatever I am writing. Easy, fast and reliable.
When I have finished a piece I read it out loud to myself. That often sends me back for a further round of changes.
My writing habits are erratic. I revise in the morning, before breakfast, or in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep. If I have a creative spurt I spend all day at my computer, but sometimes days or weeks pass when I achieve little. Sometimes I listen to music or watch old movies, and but mostly I read. I don’t recommend my compositional methods to anyone, but they seem to be tolerably effective for a person whose prose style in first drafts is as dull as ditchwater (or ditch-water).

Simon Evans

Sunday 28 June 2015

On memories and doors

Last Friday, I printed my almost finished story and put it on the table for my parents to read. It caused my dad to stay up later than he'd planned to, which I'm taking as a good sign. The next morning at breakfast he told me that the story reminded him of something I used to say as a kid. Whenever I was unsuccessfully trying to remember something, I'd say that it was somewhere behind a little door in my head, but I couldn't find the right door.

Now I'm not going to tell you what exactly the similarity to my story is; for that you'll have to buy the book when it comes out. But it's definitely there, which is funny because I'd forgotten about that particular anecdote. Who knows? Maybe I did unconsciously base the story on that idea.

Memories are strange things. For example: the only thing I remember about the house I lived in for the first two and a half years of my life is one door. I believe it was the door to the kitchen, but I'm not sure. It was green, with a small, frosted glass window with some sort of pattern in it. However, when I think about it, I don't actually remember that door anymore. I remember remembering it, and describing the image to my parents to check if there was indeed a door like that, which seems to have replaced my memory of the actual door itself.

I'm not sure why the first two memory-related anecdotes I thought of are both related to doors. It must mean something.

Anyway, hi! I'm Anna, I've been making up stories all my life, and writing them down ever since I figured out how letters worked. I've always wanted to write a novel, and I'm actually working on the first one that, even after a few chapters, still seems like it's going to be great. It's going to take a while to finish, though, so I decided to get back into short stories and see if I could get one published. And here I am, really excited to be working on this anthology!

Sunday 21 June 2015

School to desired temperature: Mr Lanaway

Welcome ye to my third and final post about the three teachers who have most influenced/damaged me. I've sort of made it a series of episodic posts so that a) after the first one you know that they're related, and kind of what to expect; and b) after the first one, you can just look at the title and know to avoid the other two without the hassle of clicking through to read the whole thing.
I've just realised that I have, unintentionally, written about these three in ascending order of age. Mr Moody was in his mid to late twenties; Mrs Bradley was in her late thirties; and Mr Lanaway was in his sixties. I know this for certain because he retired months before we were finished with him, and we all missed him dearly.
Dear Mr Lanaway. He wasn't young by anybody's standards, and so to a bunch of teenagers obsessed with sex, drugs and alcohol (or, in my case, manga and Stephen King) he should have seemed positively ancient. He should have; but he never did. I remember Mr Lanaway as having a permanent smile lighting up his face, and I would like to believe that my former classmates remember him in the same way. We were so, so lucky to have him. He was clearly a lovely human being, but he also had a genuine and powerful passion for what he was teaching that we all subconsciously absorbed by osmosis. He was born to teach, and the subject he was born to teach was English.
I'm not sure if this was built into the curriculum or something, but Mr Lanaway – the oldest English teacher – tended to teach the oldest books. This included Chaucer. Have you ever read Chaucer? Or, more accurately for most normal human beings, have you ever tried to read Chaucer? For those unfamiliar with the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, I shall quote from The Wife of Bath's Tale (from The Canterbury Tales):
And happed that, allone as he was born,
He saugh a mayde walkynge hym biforn,
Of which mayde anon, maugree hir heed,
By verray force, he rafte hire maydenhed;

The first two lines I can sort of understand; it just looks like somebody got hit round the head with something heavy immediately before writing them. The following two lines, though, seem to have been transcribed phonetically from somebody in the throes of demonic possession. Mr Lanaway could read Chaucer aloud fluidly, with full understanding of every syllable. I essentially spent these lessons living in mortal fear of being asked to demonstrate that I had some vague sense of what was going on.
Actually, that's just a weak attempt at a cheap laugh that's greatly unfair to Mr Lanaway's teaching. I never did get my head all the way around Chaucer, but Mr Lanaway made every effort possible to gently but firmly guide us around the unfamiliar writing. He asked questions, answered questions, and made slow but clear progress with us through the stories. I suppose it helped that Chaucer was a filthy old man. It's amazing the effort some teenagers will put in if they think there's something vaguely resembling pornography to be had at the end of it.
The smile most certainly characterised Mr Lanaway (and as I said, it was always there, not just while he was watching a class full of kids discover dirty jokes from the 14th century). His occasional stammer came in third. What came in at a close second was the way in which he seemed physically unable to stand still. If he wasn't walking slowly around the class as he was sharing his wealth of knowledge with us, he was doing it standing in several places at once. That is to say, he would gently rock back and forth or side to side in a subtle – but entirely impossible to miss – manner. It gave him the appearance of a hugely intelligent metronome.
Here's my dirty little secret: I've never been a huge fan of Shakespeare. I have a collection of his complete works of course, as this is required by law in the United Kingdom. I find his sonnets to be true works of art, beautiful and valuable pieces of history. His plays, I can take 'em or leave 'em. Okay, so The Tempest and Macbeth are kind of cool, the latter carrying what is easily my favourite Shakespeare quote (“I am in blood steeped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er”). A Midsummer Night's Dream wins points for having a character named Bottom. Richard III gave me some context for the relevant cockney rhyming slang, if nothing else. Even though I didn't really enjoy it, it's actually Hamlet – or more specifically, Mr Lanaway's teaching of it – that provided my most important Shakespearian experience.
Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and I tell you what, it bloody felt like it at the time, too. It has a ghost but, sadly, no proton streams. There are 32,241 words in Hamlet (I Googled it), but it only took six of them to really leave an impression on me. They only left an impression on me because they left an impression on Mr Lanaway; but not in the way I imagine Billy Shakespeare was hoping.
It's one of the most famous quotes to be repeatedly regurgitated from any of the plays. It is spoken by Polonius, an old man flawed in a deeply human way. When giving advice to his son, Polonius at one point says “To thine own self be true”. I remember, vividly, the day we came across this line in class. We regularly played the parts ourselves but on this occasion Mr Lanaway was reading to us, walking or wobbling about the room as he did so. I was sat at my desk, one of the small but solid wooden ones barely four feet square our school still had a handful of that you probably don't get anymore. He was walking past me, to my left, with me on his left hand side, when he reached that line and stopped.
To thine own self be true. 'To thine own self be true'. What a load of rubbish.”
He turned so that he was facing me, but still looking down into the book in his hands as though willing the offending words away. He repeated the line a few more times in disgust, then continued reading and walking.
Mr Lanaway had immeasurable respect for language, and books, and education, and – yes – for Shakespeare. Never before or since that moment had he shown us anything but an interest in and passion for the works of Shakespeare. But that moment is the one I remember above all others. It was a revelation to me. A teacher hinting that a Shakespeare play was less than perfect? Did I dream it? Surely that didn't actually happen? No, it did – because I was in Mr Lanaway's class.
I already had a little seedling of rebellion against authority then but, looking back, I think that simple moment of humanity gave it a healthy dose of gro-fast. I respect Mr Lanaway for many things, but what I can clearly and immediately name as one of those things is the way in which he very consciously let us know his opinion. He didn't make much of a fuss over it – he never mentioned it again, didn't ask us to critique the line or anything – but it wasn't a momentary slip of the Teacher mask, either. It was just Mr Lanaway being Mr Lanaway. Whether he meant to or not, he helped teach me that it's okay to have an unpopular opinion.

I shan't be writing about my school memories anymore (is that a sigh of relief I hear?), and it may seem like I've been writing more about memories around my teachers rather than my memories of them. It is however what they taught me and how they taught it that helped shape what I remember from that time, how, and why. Writing these three posts, I have discovered that these memories were even more significant in shaping me than I first thought. I am loathe to pry still further into their meanings, in fact, lest their influence wanes and a little piece of me slips away.